Your Song Needs a Deadline

Christopher Ward is a busy person.  When’s he’s not on the set of Instant Star, he’s busy co-writing as well as serving on the board of the Songwriters Association of Canada.  How does he find the time and headspace to finish the songs he’s working on?  He has discovered the importance of deadlines and wrote a guest blog for us on this subject, which he submitted before the deadline.

In his words…

I hate the idea of writing a song in a rush. Something in me resists the notion of any deadline for the creative process to work its wonders. But is that the voice of the perfectionist or the procrastinator-in-chief speaking? The artistic side abides by the ‘No song before its time’ idea but the pragmatist understands that deadlines are a reality and sometimes… the kick in the pants that forces me to work through fatigue, distraction and sloth to start, and most importantly finish a song.

I’ve seen a lot of young writers paralyzed in the face of actually putting down the guitar, cutting the ribbon and saying, “I now declare this song complete!”. Minus those words, the song can still get better, become perfect and remain above criticism from its creator or others. I remember this feeling well.

So, many choruses under the bridge later, I’m here to say I love a deadline! I create them for myself by setting up writing appointments for which I always come prepared with beginnings of songs and then follow-up dates where something has to be completed.

I’m not a big fan of the so-called ‘writing camps’ which are very popular but I’ve taken part in many of them and organized a few. Some of my most productive co-writing relationships have started there. For the Epitome Pictures show ‘Instant Star’, I helped assemble a team of nine songwriters; we’d meet at the Epitome office on Monday morning with the producers, writers and other creative people to get direction for upcoming episodes. Then, off to write in rotating groups of 3 for a week, at the end of which we’d present our songs at a Friday night party at the producers’ home. There was no obligation to finish every song but you knew the script writers would be mentally casting the songs as they heard them at the party so you wouldn’t want to miss that opportunity. Resistant as I may have been, I wrote some of my best songs at those sessions. ‘There’s Us’, written with Rob Wells, was used in Instant Star, and later cut by the Backstreet Boys.

I interviewed Lamont Dozier of the legendary Motown writing team of Holland, Dozier & Holland (‘Stop In The Name Of Love’, ‘How Sweet It Is’). He told me that Berry Gordy ran Motown like the assembly line that had previously been his workplace. If you were late for the Monday morning meeting, you were out of luck. At the meeting, the writers were told who needed a song and knew that competition and a deadline were part of the deal.

So, why don’t you try giving yourself one and see what happens! Good luck.

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2 thoughts on “Your Song Needs a Deadline

  1. Brian

    I agree that deadlines are a must. I am not a professional songwriter but have just entered into some working relationships with a couple managers in the industry and setting due dates has helped add that extra pressure to get the song completed. Entering a few song competitions can help (like ISC, USA songwriting competition, Billboard worldwide song comeption, john lennon songwriting comp, Radiostar) as they all have different due dates. This can give that extra incentive to complete the songs you are writing.

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  2. I’m all in favor of deadlines. Selfishly- I’m all in favor of the work that has usually been attached to them. I’ve done a lot of writing for theatre projects and often you have very time to get inspired then tinker. So it has to be your best shot. The songs can always grow but they have to crystallize quickly. I recently did a songwriting workshop with Dave Bidini – a taskmaster- he required us to write a song a night on chosen subjects. It was a great rush and inspired some wonderful material. Left to my own devices, I can wank away but with a deadline in front of me the game is on!

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